Feinstein (Again) Says Metadata Program 'Is Not Surveillance'

from the you're-only-embarrassing-yourself,-Dianne dept

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s war of words in defense of the NSA’s programs continues, despite both the political tide and public favor shifting in the other direction. According to Feinstein, everyone is still suffering from some sort of mass delusion when it comes to the Section 215 program.

“It’s not a surveillance program, it’s a data-collection program,” she said while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Oh, but it’s actually both. According to supporters of the NSA, metadata is just a bunch of anonymous numbers harvested in hopes of discovering needles. To those actually paying attention, metadata is a very efficient way to collect very personal information about someone. Just because it looks like data doesn’t mean it’s not surveillance. Let’s not forget that metadata provides enough information to justify extrajudicial killings.

It’s still surveillance. It just bears no resemblance to what spying used to mean. What the NSA has done is turn “surveillance” into something abstract, but equally invasive. It has eliminated the targeted nature of its classic definition and replaced it with servers full of data, all of it theoretically linked to another abstraction: “terrorism.”

The headline says Feinstein “blasts” critics, but this sort of clueless pedantry doesn’t actually “blast” anyone. Months after the defenders’ assertions have been repeatedly dismantled (including two similar assertions by the senator), Feinstein’s willingness to cling to a nostalgic view of surveillance could almost be termed “delightfully old school” — if only she still didn’t have at least one hand on the controls as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

She also said she wasn’t aware of another revelation released in conjunction with Glenn Greenwald’s book on Snowden and the NSA.

In “No Place to Hide,” released last week, Greenwald said the U.S. government places surveillance tools in technology equipment to be sold abroad, an accusation the U.S. government often lobs at the Chinese government.

That program “does not sound familiar,” Feinstein said Sunday.

Well, I’m sure the NSA keeps secrets from even you, Dianne. And I’m sure the NSA is at least as surprised as you are that the information is now public. No one seems to be aware of some of the stuff that has been leaked, elements of which have escaped even the attention of those on the committees that have performed actual oversight, rather than just stood cheering on the sidelines.

Ultimately, whether it doesn’t fit into Feinstein’s dewy-eyed surveillance ideal or if it has escaped (read: been withheld from) her attention, she’s behind it. Because without all of this, we’re doomed.

“I know they will come after us if they can, I see the intelligence,” she said.

“Terror is not down in the world, it is up.”

If that’s so, remind us again why all the surveillance and expansion of government powers is necessary. Because it doesn’t seem to have improved anything.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Feinstein (Again) Says Metadata Program 'Is Not Surveillance'”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What is surveillance?

Whether it’s surveillance or not is a red herring. The 4th amendment prohibits unreasonable search AND seizure. By recent polls the majority of people consider bulk collection of innocent people’s data unreasonable which would then make the gathering without a warrant or consent a violation of the 4th amendment regardless of what happened in some case back in 1979. Fine. Don’t call it surveillance if you don’t want to. It’s still a violation of our constitutional rights regardless of what you decide to call it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What is surveillance?


They have just reclassified what that means. However, if you read the 4th… Unreasonable has ZERO to do with anything.

This is what every ignorant and corrupt person “THINKS” the 4th says.

Citizens are protected from “Unreasonable” search and seizure.

This is what the 4th actually means.
ANY search and seizure by the Government is UNREASONABLE unless a warrent is issued per theses following guidlines “but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

It is shit-tastically insane how many people get the damn Constitution so damn wrong all the damn time! It’s all in plain English and the majority of Americans cannot even understand!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What is surveillance?

The actual text is…

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

As much as I would LIKE to agree with you, you are dead wrong here. It does specifically prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. The purpose of a warrant based on probable cause is for the court to determine if the search is reasonable or not. If the court determines that the search is reasonable it can issue a warrant proclaiming it as such prior to the search or seizure taking place. Searches and seizures that conform to that standard are by definition reasonable just as if someone gives consent to a search or have their property seized for evidence purposes, it is also considered reasonable due to the consent given.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What is surveillance?

Class is… IN SESSION!

This part of the 4th is more of an information insert as to the purposes of the amendment. Why is that just information? Because the term unreasonable is clearly ambiguous, and everyone knows that each other persons idea of “reasonable” is literally different per person for people to kill one another over it (as history proves).

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”

Now, since the Founders of our Nation already knew that people such as YOU exist to do nothing more than consume air, they had to specifically write what the Government CAN DO!

“but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This is the real action item here… this Amendment is more about Granting Power to the Government where it had none otherwise.

This subject clearly identifies what is so wrong with America today. So many people think that the Constitution/Bill of Rights are nothing but limiters against Government and it is not. This document is as much about giving to the government as well as stating what it cannot take.

Right now we have a government already taking far more than it has authority to take, and citizens such as yourself too ignorant to even understand why, how, or when.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 What is surveillance?

Inherent to the design of a democracy, it matters not what an individuals definition of “unreasonable” is. What matters is society’s definition. By the logic of your argument, that the Constitution only specifies what the government CAN do, please tell me where it authorizes reasonable searches and seizures? It says they can issue warrants based on probable cause presented under oath. But no where does it say that those warrants authorize them to conduct a search or seizure or why. The truth is the Constitution does both at times. Sometimes it explicitly authorizes what the government can do. Much of the time, (such as most of what is here) it explicitly says what they can’t do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 What is surveillance?

I said it Grants and Restricts… this would be both. Looking at the document from one side or the other is what gets everyone into trouble, which is the crux of my complaint.

“please tell me where it authorizes reasonable searches and seizures?”

Instead of thinking about what the 4th authorizes or protects you should instead read it like it is intended. It is ‘flat the fuck out telling’ us what IS in FACT considered “REASONABLE”. The ONLY reasonable search or seizure is done with a warrant and all that entails… not a cops reasonable fucking suspicion!

This article points it out clearly why this whole idea of “reasonable” is fucking wrong. Even SCOTUS is stupid as a box of damn rocks for a bunch of “Judicial Scholars” or whatever that means. They simply do not even understand the 4th on a fundamental level.

“ONLY a WARRANT issued under probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized is reasonable!”

I really cannot emphasize just how important it is for people to understand what initially appears to be minutiae is actually DAMN IMPORTANT!!!

We are destroying our nation because you all cannot pass fucking 5th grade English! Are we all really this stupid?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 What is surveillance?

Much of what you say here, I agree with. A law enforcement officer’s reasonable suspicion does not constitute a reasonable search. However, if searches and seizures made under warrant issued based on probable cause is the ONLY kind of search or seizure that is reasonable and therefore authorized by the Constitution, what about when consent is given? Are those no longer reasonable? Under your definition they are. I think Terry v. Ohio was decided wrongly as well. In Terry, I think the search was reasonable from the officer safety perspective but not the evidentiary perspective. The officer should have been allowed to perform the search but any evidence gained from it should not have been allowed to be used against the defendant. Smith v. Maryland was also wrong. Expectation of privacy is irrelevant to the protections in the 4th amendment. You have your rights whether you know them or not, whether you expect them to be respected or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 What is surveillance?

I think I see where you are going with the Consent thing.
I believe consent is beyond the scope of the 4th. Without going into details, one can consent to anything they are ignorant or dumb enough to consent too.

And to clarify one thing, consent obtained through coercion or assumption, like buying a plane ticket is complete BS. Buy a plane ticket does not remove your 4th Amendment rights to not your have your junk juggled by the TSA.

The government simply does not have the legal authority to remove our rights the way they do it these days (lengthy imprisonment prior to trial, search and seizures, illegal entry, civil forfeiture) and we are just letting them get by with bus load after bus load of egregious tyrannies!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 What is surveillance?

Consent by coercion isn’t consent at all and I wasn’t implying it to be. My main point is that the 4th amendment explicitly says that people have a right to be secure from unreasonable seizures. The whole point of presenting probable cause under oath to a court in an attempt to get a warrant is for the court to determine if the search is reasonable or not. If it is, then it will issue the warrant. If it isn’t it will not. I agree, lawyers have used the word “unreasonable” in the 4th amendment as a weasel word in order to try to bend the law to claim that it doesn’t apply. That only works if society doesn’t care enough to call bullshit on that. Ultimately in a democracy “reasonable” means what society deems it to mean and right now all evidence suggests that most of society does not agree with the government’s definition of “reasonable”.

Trevor says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What is surveillance?

The part everyone is glossing over is the “Probable Cause” and “Particularly describing the place to be searched, and persons or things to be seized” section of the 4th Amendment.

Yes, the Constitution BOTH grants power and rights and restricts power and rights, and the 4th Amendment is an example of a balance of that.

However, the 4th Amendment indicates that a search is reasonable if supported by a warrant, which in turn is supported by probable cause and particularly describes what is to be taken and where it is likely located.

The purpose of the 4th Amendment was to counter the “General Warrants” the Crown used against Colonists and regular Peasants to keep them in line. The 4th Amendment was a response to that system, and required the Warrants to be more than general.

The problem today is that the secret courts and interpretations of law and NSA are in effect bringing back general warrants. What probable cause does the NSA have to collect all metadata on everyone? “They might be associated with terrorists” is too broad an explanation to pass as reasonable.

Case law has shown that warrants require specificity. You can’t get a warrant to search for a stolen car and use that warrant to look inside every drawer of a garage. You can only look where the car is likely to be. That’s why warrants always include “and drug paraphernalia,” because it is small and lets cops look through drawers for evidence.

With the NSA, there is no specificity. The most specific they get is “People” and “Metadata.” and then collect everything. It’s like getting a warrant to look for a stolen house, and searching EVERY drawer in your apartment to find the house.

That’s the problem. It’s not so much the definition of reasonableness, but more that the NSA does not have probable cause AND does not attempt to be specific about what it is searching for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 What is surveillance?

The definition of “unreasonable” really comes into play with using the 3rd party doctrine based on the decision in Smith v. Maryland. In Smith, the word became a the hinge point for the argument. The logic there was if when you freely give information to someone else, in this case the phone company, you cannot be sure of what they will do with that information. And since the information is no longer within your ability to control what happens to it, any expectation that they will keep it private is unrealistic. Unrealistic then gets twisted into a synonym for unreasonable by claiming that any one with such an expectation does so without logical reasoning. Now that such an expectation is “unreasonable” any searches and/or seizures that would violate such an unreasonable expectation clearly can’t be covered by the 4th amendment, now can they?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 What is surveillance?

“And since the information is no longer within your ability to control what happens to it”

Legally, this isn’t automatically true. You can (and do, in many cases) control what happens to it through contracts.

The real problem, and what I have yet to hear any sort of explanation for, is why does the third party doctrine mean that the government can force the other party into revealing information without raising Constitutional issues?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 What is surveillance?

The only thing I can figure is that they are arguing that if there is no control and thus no reasonable expectation of privacy, then the information isn’t considered secure and therefore, the 4th amendment can’t protect the security of information that isn’t considered secure in the first place.

Ramon Creager (profile) says:

It is classic surveillance

It just bears no resemblance to what spying used to mean.

Not sure I agree, unless by ‘it’ you mean the scope of the targeting. Collecting metadata is what every PI, stalker, spy has always done: When did I go to work? Who came to see me? When did I leave? Did I go home? or did I go somewhere else? Did I stop by the jewelry store on my way somewhere else? This is the same sort of information that metadata reveals.

The fact that NSA does this to everyone and can retroactively target anyone they don’t like is the new wrinkle. It’s surveillance on steroids.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s war of words in defense of the NSA’s programs continues, despite both the political tide and public favor shifting in the other direction.

you just posted and article about how the Freedom act was basically gutted of any real teeth.
The political tide hasn’t shifted one bit, and while the public may still be against the collection a lot of people have moved on to worry about other things. The major news networks are not harping on it over and over to keep it fresh like they do with other things…

Anonymous Coward says:

Feinstein doesn’t have an issue with spying until it’s her rosy little ass being spied on. She had a conniption when she discovered a drone near one of her windows that was being used in protest.

She had another shit fit when it was found out her precious little team was spied on by the NSA and some documents they had already seen were disappearing.

She’s already demonstrated she believes she is part of the elite that don’t have to be bothered with what the plebes get.

Like so many others, it is time to send a bunch of these Washington Career politicians home jobless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not familiar with that program, eh? Isn’t it your JOB as the chair person of the committee in charge of oversight to be not only familiar with it but to make sure that it is a legal and ethical program operated in our best interest and not being abused? How exactly can you provide effective oversight if you aren’t even aware of it’s existence? Sounds a little like someone is dropping the ball there doesn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That isn’t exactly an accurate correlation. LMFTFY….

I guess Feinstein wouldn’t mind the people demanding, taking all her e-mail, phone record, and financial transaction metadata for the public to keep in case we have a reason to analyze it some time in the future, right? … Right?

You see, the difference there is if she publishes it, she is giving it up. That’s not what’s happening with the NSA. It’s close to what is happening with Google, but not the NSA.

Robert Freetard (profile) says:

Ok, if it's not surveillance then

Well Senator Feinstein, if it’s NOT surveillance then you won’t mind making all YOUR metadata freely available to the public will you?

As I am certain that you know that metadata collection is entirely as bad as surveillance I am certain that you will not take this step, proving that you are lying.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Just what does Feinstein think that ‘surveilance’ means?

Surveilance is described as: the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting them. This can include observation from a distance by means of electronic equipment (such as CCTV cameras), or interception of electronically transmitted information (such as Internet traffic or phone calls); and it can include simple, relatively no- or low-technology methods such as human intelligence agents and postal interception.

Collecting metadata sent over the internet is ‘surveilance’, there’s nothing else that explains it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Give us the totals, no specifics, just the counts

They already tried that, originally it was 52.

And then people started to actually look into those claims, and it got knocked down to 2.

And then people looked a little closer, and even those faded away, with at most one maybe having been decided by NSA spying, and that one involved nothing more than the transfer of money.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"Why no your honor..."

“… I wasn’t peeking through the windows as that woman changed, I was looking through the window at something else.”

“… I didn’t install those cameras in the public pool changing rooms to spy on people, I was merely gathering data on different body types.”

“… I wasn’t speeding, I was merely going 40 miles over the speed limit.”

“… I didn’t beat that man, I was giving him a deep tissue massage.”

“… I didn’t stab that man, I was demonstrating how effective the knife I had was in cutting things.”

Slinky (profile) says:


?It?s not a surveillance program, it?s a data-collection program,?

Data-collection programs that can search, find matches and positively identify specific patterns in a text/context or a persons behavior will ALWAYS be surveillance.

Patterns to look for could include timing and/or specific characters used in a certain way that are unique for an individual. Datamining will over time (if collated with previously gathered data) be able to identify character and determine targeted individuals psychological profiles. Something like searching for the LIX number in a context, can also tell if a person has a higher education or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Treatment vs. Disease

If that’s so, remind us again why all the surveillance and expansion of government powers is necessary. Because it doesn’t seem to have improved anything.

It’s actually not as crazy as it sounds. If a patient has a disease and treatment is not working, the doctor will often increase the dose. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you value privacy, the treatment is like chemo: it’s harming the patient. You may even consider the treatment worse than the disease, like I do, but this doesn’t mean that increasing the dose will necessarily be ineffective.

Personanongrata says:


?It?s not a surveillance program, it?s a data-collection program,? she said while appearing on CNN?s ?State of the Union? on Sunday.

It’s not a Senate Intelligence Committee oversight program, it’s a rubber-stamp program.

That program ?does not sound familiar,? Feinstein said Sunday.

Dianne Feinstein is incompetent and/or she has been co-opted by NSA.

?I know they will come after us if they can, I see the intelligence,? she said.

Why do they want to come after us?

They want to do us harm because we, the US government, have been busy bombing, kidnapping, torturing, indefinitely detaining, militarily occupying and humiliating the various they in different global locales for decades while operating outside the law thousands of miles from home. It’s called revenge.

Diane Feinstein has sold the people of this nation out for her own personal gain. She has turned her back on the very documents she swore an oath to uphold.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Incompetent/Co-opted

?That program ?does not sound familiar,? Feinstein said Sunday.?

In one sense, the distinctions between 702, 215 and 12333 are not just unintelligable to the majority of Americans, but entirely irrelevant. All the same, you do need to understand those distinctions in order to follow what the players are saying.

?Most of NSA?s data collection authorized by order Ronald Reagan issued?, by Ali Watkins, McClatchy, November 21, 2013

?.?.?.?Approved by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Executive Order 12333 (referred to as ?twelve-triple-three?) still governs most of what the NSA does.?.?.?.

Its Section 2.5 effectively gives the attorney general the right to authorize intelligence agencies to operate outside the confines of judicial or congressional oversight, so long as it?s in pursuit of foreign intelligence ? including collecting information of Americans.?.?.?.

[House Intelligence Committee member Adam] Schiff isn?t alone in raising questions about how well informed Congress is kept of activities undertaken under 12333 authorities. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called for a broad review of what?s taking place under 12333, noting that the order authorizes phone and email metadata collection beyond what the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does.

Feinstein has consistently defended the NSA?s collection of domestic cellphone metadata, saying the program under which it is doing so is overseen by both the courts and Congress. But even she has said the 12333 programs skirt similar protections.

?The other programs do not (have the same oversight as FISA). And that?s what we need to take a look at,? she said, adding that her committee has not been able to ?sufficiently? oversee the programs run under the executive order. ?Twelve-triple-three programs are under the executive branch entirely.??.?.?.

Anonymous Coward says:

Please indulge me.

Give me the metadata of an unknown person and I will find out myself, without any help from a giant agency, where the person works, where he/she lives, their likes, dislikes, sexual orientation, friends, family, the school their kids go to and probably some of their medical history plus so much more.
All this will be done with tools available to the ordinary person.

I would also like them to finally present some of their own metadata, without the sidedish of lies, on how many terrorists they have caught with their vile programs and how many people are affected, so we can determine for ourselves if it is actually worth it (which it most certainly is not).
What’s wrong NSA? It’s just metadata… unless you have something to hide, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Sen. Spystein, got all huffy and puffy when the CIA ‘data collected’ information about her underlings accessing CIA torture information. What she’s really stating is that spying… I mean ‘data collecting’ is not OK when it’s being done to her and people close to her, but it’s perfectly fine to spy… I mean ‘data collect’ on everyone else.

It’s like me putting a camera in someone’s shower and saying I’m only ‘data collecting’, as long as I don’t look at the pictures. It’s so absurd, and I’m scared that Sen. Spystein actually believes this nonsense.

The NSA has years worth of dossiers on people’s internet browsing history, email history, phone call history, geo-location base station and GPS history, financial history, and employment history.

As soon as someone makes waves, the ‘data collectors’ in charge of this treasure trove of personal information will use all this against someone, digging back years and years through someone’s personal life. Then use all that unwarranted and unconstitutionally seized past history against them in a court of law.

Yet Sen. Spystein doesn’t see a problem with years worth of unconstitutional bulk ‘data collection’ on each and every American citizen happening since their date of birth.

Ignorance is bliss, until reality comes crashing down. I don’t know what else to say about her espionage on the American Public.

JSintheStates says:

Fascism 2014

I don’t believe it’s racist or bigoted to refer to a person of the Jewish faith who has severe sociological issues. Ms. Feinstein should know how dangerous it is to have a government secretly spying on it’s citizens without any just cause whatsoever! I wonder, outloud, whether she’s forgotten what happened in Germany in the 1930s! Aftre all, that’s almost a century ago!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Dear DiFi,
Here is what people around you are not telling you.
You are a sanctimonious bitch.

You got so VERY angry when you discovered they were spying on you and hacking things you cared about, but blithely ignore it being done to citizens, allies, and the rest of the entire planet.

Terrorism is up, because you authorize the citizens of the US to be terrorized daily. TSA, “Constitutional Free Zones” well inside our borders, wholesale collection of data (it is spying, it is illegal), and supporting actions globally that seriously piss people off. You are making more terrorists with every single utterance out of your mouth.

Stop pretending you can say something that will gloss over how much of the Constitution, that you swore an oath to uphold, you have allowed to be shredded.

Intelligence gathering operations in the US no longer answer to anyone. They lie to your face, they deny you access, how the hell can you claim to know anything when they can pick and chose what you are allowed to know. How can you make any informed decisions when they hide the damn facts. You seem unable or unwilling to actually do anything other that offer mewling lip service about some horror that will befall us if we demand the law be followed, you and the rest of Congress sit in your hands and play games for soundbites. How about you actually put the people first for once in your career.

I’d hope for you to be thrown out of office but anyone who wants a job in Congress is pretty much just as corrupt or will be soon enough when faced with what politics has become in this country.

You are a disgrace to your office and to the country.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...